"The absence of fathers in the home promotes dangerous sexual behavior in minor girls and young women and makes them more susceptible to physical and sexual abuse," say researchers from the Family Research Council in Washington D.C.
The Council's recently released a paper by Rob Schwarzwalder and Natasha Tax, entitled, Daddy's Girl: How Fatherlessness Impacts[is associated with]Early Sexual Activity, Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Abuse, indicates a concern that the issue is being ignored by policy makers.
"We ignore the problem of father absence to our peril," wrote Associate Professor Edward Kruk, from the University of British Columbia, in 2006.
"Fathers have a direct impact on the wellbeing of their children ... Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships," writes Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox in a report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, "The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children." Rosenberg and Wilcox also note that, sadly, "children who live in father-absent homes often face higher risks of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect than children who live with their fathers."
The researchers conclude that earlier sexual activity, higher rates of teen pregnancy, abortion and "devastatingly" higher rates of child abuse, which include involvement in the pornographic industry, are stronger likelihoods, without a father in the home. While it is true, that children raised without their fathers can avoid these patterns, the scientific evidence clearly reveals that fathers contribute something significant to a girl's development.
Just what that "something" is, was unclear to psychologist, Bruce Ellis of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch who studied 700 girls in the two western countries with the highest rates of teen pregnancy, the US and New Zealand. He would refrain from making the direct correlation of fatherlessness to early teen sexual involvement as the FRC researchers do.
Ellis' findings were published in the New Scientist in 2003. His team followed the girls from preschool to age 17 or 18, while tracking the family income, behavioral problems and parenting styles under which they lived.
It had been thought that the psychosocial stresses associated with single parent homes, such as poverty and potential neglect, contributed to early sexual activity. However, Ellis states, "If this is the case, the problem of teenage pregnancies in such families could be tackled by relieving the stress, for instance by providing more support for single mothers. But the latest study shows that even when stress is taken out of the equation, an absent father is still associated with earlier sexual behavior."
Ellis concludes that despite presence of psychosocial stress, "it was the presence or absence of a father that had the biggest impact on the girls' early sexual behavior."